Jun 282015

After over a thousand years during which we were unable to observe the mitzvah of techeles in tzitzis, in recent years, strong proofs for the identity of the original chilazon have come to light and the dyeing technique has been revived. It now appears quite reasonable to assert that the mitzvah of tzitzis can be observed in the complete and proper manner, after many generations of being unable to do so.

It seems that the various debating points have now been brought to the fore, so that now anyone has the opportunity to examine the issue and make a choice. He who delves into the issue, researches it thoroughly and remains unsatisfied with the proofs we have today will probably not be swayed by another handful of proofs. Even if one day tzitzis dated from the time of Beis HaMikdash with the seal of the Kohen Gadol were found right on the Temple Mount, most dissenters would contine to stand their ground. Likewise, those who have been convinced would not change their stance considerably were another challenge be presented here or there, for the gates of explanation remain open.

Today it could be said that the question over the revival of techeles is more a question of hashkafa than of halacha.

The issue can be presented as follows: On one hand there is a preponderence of strong evidence that the chilazon used to produce techelet in the past is purpura-murex. However, on the other hand, most of the stronger proofs did not emerge in the beis midrash, i.e. they werenot derived from an examination of the relevant sugias or statements by Chazal and the poskim, but rather from a wealth of knowledge drawn from outside sources.

Indeed, we have not come across any substantive contradiction in the words of Chazal or the poskim to obfuscate the identity of porpuria as the chilazon associated with the authentic techeles dye. Furthermore, once we know the identity of the chilazon and the manner in which the dyeing process is carried out, new light is shed on the words of Chazal.

But when all is said and done, the main thrust of evidence comes from outside the beis midrash. This is the main reason why we see many talmidei chachamim who are unprepared to hear new ideas introduced and are opposed to the renewal of the mitzvah of techeles in our day. Yet on the other hand, from day to day Jews who feel a strong appreciation for this mitzvah and adhere to the fine points of halacha now have techeles in their tzitzis, whether worn openly or discreetly.

The post was adapted from an article by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver originally published in Hebrew in “Vehaya Lachem L’Tzitzit,” Ninth Edition, 5755, Ptil Tekhelet Association.